.

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Stefani's most-fantastical-reads book montage

Crooked Kingdom
Six of Crows
Yellow Brick War
The Wicked Will Rise
Charm & Strange
Their Fractured Light
These Broken Stars
NOS4A2
NOS4A2
Big Little Lies
I'll Be There
Red Queen


Stefani's favorite books »

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Maybe this is my midlife crisis...

Maybe this is my midlife crisis.

If you had asked me two months ago what my plan for the future was, I wouldn't have even had to think about it. My future was working in Zillah, doing what I love, watching my kids grow up here, and being a part of the community that I love. This was my home. It was where I intended to put down my roots. I have spent 12 years working in the Zillah School District. I started as a para-pro at the elementary and worked while I put myself through night classes to earn my BA in Education. My dream from the start was to teach English or reading at the middle school in Zillah and that was the first position I was offered when I applied. It was perfect. As I grew to love the quirky middle school age group. I started coaching and eventually took on ASB which led to teaching a leadership class and running a mentoring program. I adored my job. 

Then this year happened. It was by far the most challenging year of my career - by miles. I started the year with a new principal and in the beginning, we got along great. We had similar ideas about student leadership and I thought that it was the beginning of a beautiful thing. It wasn't. In November I left for an NCTE conference in Atlanta. When my plane touched down and my notifications started coming in, I discovered that the guest speaker that I had booked and had approved a year in advance had been canceled without my knowledge or consent. To say that I was furious was an understatement. I had booked someone who would have had an amazing impact on our students. I could have dealt with being told that we had to cut the speaker but I believe strongly that I should have at least been consulted. If I hadn't heard from the company themselves, I wouldn't have even known that anything had happened. When I came home, I had to tell my ASB students that the speaker had been canceled and that instead, a friend of our principal would be speaking. I was angry and so were they. I know that I didn't keep some of my thoughts to myself and I should have but because of the way it was done, I had a lot of trouble with that.

A few weeks later we did our online StuCo survey. It is a routine that we do at the end of each semester to get a feel for what the student body is interested in for upcoming events and what suggestions they have for improving our school and activities. When the results came in and my students brought them to me, I was shocked. A significant number of the responses were related to our principal and they were incredibly negative and cruel. After sharing the results with her, she became convinced that somehow I was turning the students against her. Ironically, I was spending a lot of time trying to stop the negative comments about her - both in my content classes and in leadership. If you've ever worked with middle schoolers, you know how difficult that is. Needless to say, by Christmas break the tension was high. Things didn't get any better after we came back from break. In March I left for my ASB conference in Vancouver. The first day that I was gone was an in-service day for staff. First thing in the morning I started getting texts from coworkers that the topic of the morning was moving leadership to a before school class or an after school club - neither of which would work in our community. Again, I felt like as soon as I was out of the building, my program was on the table without me there to discuss or defend it. When I got back, I was reassured that the leadership program would stay and that things would go on pretty much as before.

Fast forward to May. Things were winding down for the year and I had started working on a presentation for some leadership kids to present at the board meeting at the end of May. We wanted to acknowledge the support that we had to put on new activities throughout the year and show them what we had planned for the coming year. I talked to the kids about presenting at the meeting and told them if they wanted to sign up to do it, we would put it on the agenda. Then we watched our TED talk for the day (if you haven't watched it, you should) about the use of language and the mindset that we have about gender roles. The speaker drops the f-bomb when quoting a player that she interviewed. A parent called the school the next day concerned about the content of the video. In hindsight, I should have sent home a note to parents about it and if it had been one of my ELA or history classes, I absolutely would have. However, in leadership, most of our conversations are about hard topics and I made the mistake of assuming that it was something they all could handle. My principal asked for the link so she could watch the video and then, throughout the rest of the day, students were pulled out of my classes and were interviewed. At the end of the day, some students came to me and confided in me the interviews made them really uncomfortable and that the questions were related to my character and the quality of teacher that they believed I am. I went into the weekend in tears, trying to understand what on earth I had done to make her question my character.

The following week, my union rep and I sat down with my principal and vice principal. She proceeded to tell me that she had interviewed students from my classes and that she believed that I was trying to pit students against her and that I was a poor role model for leadership. She had heard bits and pieces about students presenting to the board and somehow twisted it to believe that we were going to the board to try and get her fired. She could not have been further from the truth. She then told me that she was going to take my leadership program away from me and that I would no longer be the leadership teacher OR the ASB advisor at ZMS. My rep asked her if this was something that I could earn back if the following year went well and I was told, unequivocally, NO. Prior to the meeting, I had asked if I needed a rep, if there was some sort of discipline that I needed to be aware of, and I was told that there was no discipline to be assigned. After she told me that I would no longer be working with student leadership, I said I had been under the impression that no discipline was occurring. She smiled and said that it wasn't. She explained that she could assign or take away supplemental contracts as she saw fit. So I wasn't be disciplined but I was losing everything that I held dear. I lost it. I left school in hysterics. I went to my best friend's house and I bawled until I didn't have any tears left to cry. Then, I started updating my resume and applying for jobs. I knew that if I couldn't teach leadership or do ASB, the things that brought the deepest joy in my job, that I did not want to be a part of ZMS anymore. Leadership and ASB kept me grounded and made it so I could tolerate the bullshit that was thrown my way. I took two days off, updated my resume, and applied for several jobs around the valley.

The kicker came the day that I returned to work. A district administrator came to see me first thing in the morning and told me in no uncertain terms that the interviews and "investigation" did not yield ANY results that warranted discipline. Let me say that again - there wasn't anything in the investigation that HE conducted that warranted discipline. Then, a few days later I was visited by another administrator. He went on to tell me that the relationship between my principal and I was too toxic for us to continue in the same building. So, after 9 years at ZMS, I was told that I would be moved to a position at the elementary school. That sealed the deal for me. I was done with Zillah.

I have given 12 years to the Zillah School District and I intended to give my entire career to the students in Zillah. In nine short months, all of that was undone by one human. The saddest part is that I am not the only teacher at ZMS who has been put in this position, who has had to contact the union, who has considered leaving the district, who has felt isolated and unappreciated. I am one of several. In conversations with educators and administrators from other districts in the valley who have worked with this person, I am one of many. Prior to my resignation, I was told that I wasn't to share my story. Now that I am no longer a ZSD employee, I am exercising my right to free speech and I am sharing my story. I believe that I was treated unfairly and I believe that my reputation in Zillah speaks for itself. I know the truth about the situation and I know that truth about what went on in our building. I may not have been allowed to share it before, but I am choosing to share it now. I don't believe that silence solves anything.

It hasn't only been my career that has been impacted. This all came to a head as we were in the process of moving to Zillah. My commute has literally been flipped around. My kids will be in Zillah this year since we are living here but next year they will be moved to Selah. This has impacted every aspect of my life.

The saddest part of all of this and the actual point of this incredibly long post is that this entire year has made me question every part of myself. After I got the call from the principal in Selah, who expressed how excited he was to bring me on board, I realized how much my perception of myself had changed this year. I have always struggled with self-esteem but this year has been horrendous. I have questioned my ability as a teacher, as a wife, as a mom, and as a friend. I have doubted myself in every regard and I am so angry about it. I have lost an entire year of my life. I have lost a year of my kids' lives. I have been so depressed and full of self-loathing that I haven't been the wife or parent that I was designed to be. I will never get to go back and relive this time in my kids' lives, I can't go back and be more present in my marriage. I can't undo the poor decisions I made in regard to my health and wellness. I have lost an entire year to negativity, anger, doubt, fear, and hate. I am trying to find a healthy way to process that anger and harness it into being a better wife, a better mom, and a better human in general - but it is hard. I can choose to let it fester or I can write it out, share it, and move on with my life. I choose the latter.

I have a new chapter beginning - a new school, a new community, and new opportunities. I am excited and I am optimistic. I feel like in the weeks since I walked out of the middle school for the last time, I have started to see pieces of the real me again. I have started working out, playing with my kids, and being a human who participates in life again. This post is the endcap of a part of my life - it is the final lines in a dark chapter and I am so ready to turn the page. I am so grateful for the experiences and relationships that have been a result of my time in Zillah. The community has been awesome and supportive and I have taught some of the most amazing students and have watched them grow into kind, compassionate, successful adults. I value those memories and relationships more than I can express and they have shaped me into the teacher and human that I am today.

Thank you Zillah. I will love you always. <3 p="">
Selah... let's do this.

Image result for a new chapter begins

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The fringe...



My heart is broken.

Image result for broken heartI feel as though I'm grieving even though it's impossible to accurately articulate the range of emotions that I've felt in the past few days. I haven't cried this hard or this much since my dad passed away. I have resisted social media and texts because I don't know how to say what is in my heart without causing pain in my relationships but I also can't continue to feel all of this and not express it somehow.

I grew up as a kid on the fringes. I lived near the "cool kids" and when we were little we all played together. As we got older and started to break into different groups they still would play with me on the weekends and during the summer but when we stepped off the school bus each day I found myself alone. I was never pretty enough, athletic enough, or smart enough to fit in so I spent my adolescence on the fringes. I knew all of the "cool kids" and they knew me but that was the extent of it. I wasn't invited to their parties or included in their groups. Looking back at my high school years, I had exactly two real friends. I attended one of the largest high schools in the state but I had two friends... and one didn't even go to my school. It was painful and it took its toll - depression, rebellion, isolation...

Addison has grown up with a small group of friends - daughters of my friends and co-workers. She has gone through preschool, kindergarten, sports, birthdays with these girls and she adores them. Addison doesn't make friends easily - she's wild and unpredictable, passionate and emotional - and those things tend to frustrate kids her age.

This fall, I started to see things falling apart. She was placed in a different class than the other girls, which was what I thought I wanted. I thought she would make new friends so that she wouldn't be so reliant on the other girls to play with her.

Then she wasn't invited to the birthday of one of the girls. I tried to not let it bother me and I came up with all sorts of reasons in my head why it was okay that she didn't get to go. But it lingered.

Then she heard through the grapevine of 1st graders that one of the girls thought she was 'embarrassing' and 'cooky'. It broke her heart which in turn broke mine.

Then, this weekend, she was not invited to another birthday party. All the other little girls were there.

She doesn't know yet - I didn't have the heart to tell her - but she will find out.

We are 100 days into 1st grade.

     She hasn't been invited to a birthday party.

          She hasn't been invited to a sleepover.

               She hasn't been invited to a play date, a movie... anything.

                    When asked who she plays with the most at recess, she replies, "Myself."

I am a mother of a little girl on the fringe.

When that realization hit me yesterday, it broke me. I went to work in my classroom and I bawled like a baby for hours. Then I got home and tried to explain how I was feeling to Derek... which led to me bawling again.

I don't know how to parent her through this. Some of my dearest friends are the moms of these girls. I love these other girls and I love their moms. But I'm ashamed to admit that I'm resentful and hurt. I know that they aren't deliberately excluding her and that they aren't trying to be cruel but it doesn't change the fact that it hurts her and that it hurts me.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Digital Invasion Book Review

I've wanted for a long time to find a way to turn my book-obsession into something productive. I've never officially written a book review, so I have no idea how this is going to go... but here's my debut.

I recently read The Digital Invasion by Dr. Archibald D. Hart and Dr. Sylvia Hart Frejd. I was driving home one night and listening to an interview on the radio where the author discussed the premise of his book. The authors, a father and daughter team, are a psychology professor and a Christian counselor, respectively. The book looks at the impact that technology is having on our relationships. I am a self-proclaimed social media addict and I felt like there was value in looking at how that is impacting my relationships.

One thing that the authors point out at the start of the book is that we are broken up into two different groups in regards to technology. There are Digital Natives - those born after the advent of digital technology and Digital Immigrants - those born before the advent of digital technology.  The first few chapters instruct readers to critically look at their personal technology habits - texting and driving, checking notifications while spending one-on-one time with a family member or friend, impulses to play online games, and the need to post about every minute of our lives (I am SO guilty on that last one). Next the authors explain the different brain systems (pleasure, tranquility, memory, learning, attachment, spiritual) and how the overuse of technology is impacting each of these areas.

While the first three chapters were enlightening and set the stage for what was to come in the rest of the book. Once I hit chapter 4, the dog-earring began. Chapter 4 discusses the myth of multitasking. I have always prided myself on being able to multi-task. Being a mom and a teacher, it's probably one of the "skills" I utilize the most. It's awesome to be able to help with homework, answer emails, cook dinner, and listen to the TV at the same time. Sort of. The authors cite research done at Harvard and Stanford that show that when their brightest students were given either sequential task or multi-tasking projects, "they found that ALL the students' performance were reduced about one-third when multi-tasking. What is also notable about this study is that ALL students reported that they thought they were actually doing better when multi-tasking than when sequential tasking" (Hart, 81). Another interesting point in chapter 4 is the  mention of multi-tasking and the "attention deficit trait". Multi-tasking may actually be a factor in the rise in ADHD diagnoses in youth today. Since youth who have access to digital technology around the clock are constantly jumping back and forth between games, texting, videos, and social media. They are doing all of this while working on homework and listening to music. The problem is that when the brain is asked to jump back and forth between stimuli without ever deeply focusing on a task, we train our brain NOT to focus and think deeply about something. The idea is that by allowing kids the access we are currently giving them to digital media, we are allowing them to wire their brains to be incapable of deep though and analysis. As a teacher, this is terrifying. Students NEED to be critical thinkers who are able to reflect and form their own opinions and beliefs.

In chapter 5, the focus shifts to the impact that social media and technology has on personal relationships. As Hart states,

"Technology can help us connect with extended family but it also disconnects us from our most intimate relationships. We turn to technology to for connections we can control, like texting, tweeting, emailing, and posting. These allow us to edit, delete, and retouch what we say and how we look. Real conversations are hard work, messy, challenging, unpredictable, and time consuming, but they are worth it."

The authors go on to analyze the way the our technology use impedes our relationships and leads to
disconnected people living in their own isolated worlds. Digital tech is an incredibly important part of our lives but we need to be aware of how it impacts our relationships and our brains. I would whole-heatedly recommend this book to parents and teachers alike. We are just starting to scratch the surface of the impact of digital technology and it is important that we are educated consumers.

Friday, January 20, 2017

My (anti)Inauguration Speech

It's Inauguration Day. A few weeks back I made a self-promise not to post political ideas or beliefs, especially on Facebook and I have since broken that promise several times. I hadn't intended to blog about it at all until my husband made an innocent statement while getting ready this morning. I told him that I was wearing black today to protest Trump's inauguration and he said, "I think that we owe it to him to give him a chance - it's not like we can change anything."

o_o

I adore my husband and I know he had no deeper agenda than believing that this man that our government, not our people, elected deserves a fair shot. I think that's a bit idealistic since Trump had the past year to woo America and to win over the different groups who have opposed him. I haven't really seen him make that effort unless belligerent statements count and effort. I know I'm not alone. As of yesterday, somewhere around 60% of Americans are of the same mindset as I am. We're in big trouble and we just elected a bully with horrible manners and questionable morals to be our leader. I've been asked several times on Facebook to defend my beliefs but since I'm almost always on my phone when I check it and am HORRIBLE at typing on my phone, I thought I would respond here - with a full size keyboard.

Why do I refuse to embrace the idea of "giving Trump a chance"?

I am a mom.

I have been charged with raising two tiny humans who are acutely aware of what is going on around them. My job is to raise them to be kind, compassionate, forgiving, and tolerant. We now have a president that I would NEVER allow my children to watch speak (given their ages). I would not tolerate my children to use the kind of comments and behavior that he is admired for. If my children mocked someone with a disability the lesson would be learned and reparations made. If my son made sexist comments about a girl in the way Trump has mocked women, the punishment would be swift and an example would be made. Trump demonstrates the range of behavior that I will not tolerate in my children - and certainly on in my President.

I am a woman.

When the announcement of Trump's victory came in November I awoke for the first time with a snippet of the fear and uncertainty that is commonplace for minorities in our country. I was scared. We elected a man who has made his opinion on women clear many times. I was raped when I was a teenager. It was traumatic and shameful and it took me a long time to be able to look my family in the face and discuss it. Our society already shames women who are victims of sexual assault.
     "Are you sure you said no?"
             "Were you wearing something suggestive?"
                     "Were you drinking?"
Trump has be accused of sexual assault by more than 15 women. I know that allegations have not been proven by my point is this - we have elected a man who is coming into office with multiple women alleging abuse.

I was fortunate that I didn't have to deal with the added pain of a pregnancy as a result of rape. But if I had, I think that, given my age, I would have had an abortion. Becoming a mom has changed my views on abortion dramatically and now I know that I could never terminate a pregnancy. The point here is that is MY belief and MY choice. I would never want to impose that onto someone else. It is covered by the 14th amendment. Cutting funding to organizations such as Planned Parenthood means that women who have limited access to health care will no longer have access to birth control or other women's health services.

I am a Christian.

I am a Christian. I believe in the teaching of Jesus and the Bible. Jesus' teaching promoted agape love, patience, and kindness. He taught that we are to love one another and care for 'least of these'. He was humble, forgiving, compassionate, loving, and patient. How can I support a man that is the literal opposite of all of these things? It's simple for me - I can't. I cannot reconcile the hate that spews from his mouth with the love that we know to be Jesus.

I am so thankful that I know who wins in the end.

I am a teacher.

I teach in rural Eastern Washington. We are an agricultural region that relies on migrant workers in the fields and I am fortunate to teach the children of some of these families. I know that some of the families in our community are here illegally. I also know that if Trump were to deport those living here illegally that families in our community would be ripped apart. I want my students to have every opportunity to better their lives and that means getting an education and having the opportunity to attend college. These families are here - help them acquire legal status. Treat them like humans.

I won't even go into Betsy DeVos in this post... but I have A LOT to say about her as well.

I am a human.

I believe that all people should be free from oppression, poverty, and violence. I watch Trump openly express an "Us versus Them" mentality that automatically pits religion against religion and nationality against nationality. I watch him describe his mighty wall and proclaim how he plans to shut down borders to keep "them" out. What happens after that, to the "them" that are left here? How will they be treated or mistreated?

Donald Trump stands for all the things I stand against.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

There will come a day...

I have spent the last year and a half nursing an injured hip. There have been MONTHS of physical therapy, surgery, crutches, more physical therapy, tears and frustration, and now... suddenly I'm cleared by my surgeon to be a normal, active human again.

It's the day I've been waiting for for almost two years... and yet now that it's here, I'm a little bit scared.

When I finally reached a point where running was challenging but fun and re-energizing, it became something that I built my day around. I got up at 4:50 IN THE MORNING so I could go running. There are so many things about that statement that don't describe me that it still feels funny to write it down. I loved running. I felt good, I felt strong, and for the first time in a really long time - I didn't hate what I saw when I looked in the mirror. I was proud of myself.

Now I'm horrendously out of shape, 15 pounds heavier, unmotivated (because let's be honest, exercise right now HURTS and it SUCKS and I don't like it. At all.), and so intensely scared. What if I can't get back in shape? What if I start running and the pain comes back and this whole mess was a waste of time and effort and insane amounts of money?

I hate how I look and I hate how much that matters to me. If one of my friends or students were to say that they based how they felt about themselves based on what they weighed I would threaten to smack them because I know it's not a fair unit of measure. But somehow that truth doesn't work in my head. I look in the mirror and the only truth I see is what I SEE - not the kind of wife or mother I am, the kind of friend or teacher. It is a fundamental error in reasoning.

So now what?

I start training. I can't call it working out because then I just won't do it - I have no motivation to work out. I HATE working out. But I want that feeling back - I want to go out before sunrise this summer and run the hop fields and watch the sun come up as I'm making my last turns toward home. I want to be able to participate in the See Spot Run 5k in May as my first race post-surgery. But more than anything, I want to look in the mirror and be proud of the person looking back at me. I want that moment where all the pain and the tears become worth it... and to do that, I have to train.

It is going to suck and I'm going to hate it. I'm going to whine and I'm going to want to quit. I'm going to feel like I will NEVER get to cross that finish line... and so I need my people to have my back. Please don't let me quit on myself. Life's too damn short to spend it on the couch.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Measuring up...

It's been an entire year since I sat down with a blank page and cursor in front of me... I wish that my first post back was something positive, something uplifting. I DO have those posts in my drafts folder - they are unfinished and don't have the burning urgency to post that this one does. So they will stay there and the raw, icky reality of life will make its way onto this page instead.

My life has forever been a battle of measuring up. Before I continue let me assure you that I KNOW that this isn't reality, I know that the things I tremble before are NOT the important things in life. Intellectually, I know this. I may know it but I can't make myself believe it lately.

I have been trying to unravel the mess of how I ended up here - how I went from relatively "okay" with life back to a place where I am on a razor-sharp precipice between holding it together and absolute darkness. There isn't one event or circumstance that has landed me here - it's a mess of different little things that have snowballed together. This is my attempt at untangling it all..

Weight. This is probably the most all-consuming thought on my mind. It would appear that five pounds is the difference between sanity and insanity for me. I know that (rationally) it is a small number, that my overall weight is not something to be concerned about... blah. blah. blah. As I said before, knowing and believing are two different concepts completely in my book. My clothes don't fit right. I loathe what I see in the mirror and in pictures. I have never tried to lose weight by doing anything normal. When I have wanted to drop pounds, I starved myself. It was a very simple equation. No food = smaller numbers on the scale. I don't know how to pick just healthy items. I don't know how to moderate my intake anymore. Binge eating is new to me and completely terrifying. When I was in out-patient therapy for my last bought with anorexia I was told to "just eat" and to learn to enjoy food again. That advice worked for a time but now it has come back to bite me in the ass in a completely different way. I can't make portion control work. I want Oreos, especially when I feel like the world is laying its weight on my shoulders. I don't want to go back, I don't want to ever have to deal with my eating disorder like that again. The problem is that I value my weight more than my health. I don't want to. I wish it to be different but it's not.

Parenting. I feel like the ultimate failure as a mother. I watch other people with their kids and I wonder what in the hell I am doing wrong. One child doesn't sleep. Ever. I have had to lock her door at night because she roams the house at all hours of the night, watching Netflix and eating everything in the house. She goes into the garage to search for food and I am terrified she'll find some chemical that wasn't put away properly or eventually, walk right out the front door. She lies. Constantly. She has ADHD that drives me up the wall. She still doesn't sleep through the night without a pull up. My son is nearly 4 and still barely communicates verbally (in human). I can't get him to sit through Sunday school because he refuses to listen to a teacher. He will not potty train. No matter what I do I can't fix these things. I can't find a way to make my kid sleep. She walks around with dark circles under her eyes and is exhausted 98% of the time but I can't make her sleep. I can't even keep her in her room, despite child locks and threats and every incentive system Pinterest has to offer. I can't get my son to talk. There is no amount of coaxing or teaching that will get this child to speak unless he wants to. The exact same problem arises whenever I try to feed him something that doesn't start with "peanut butter and...". We don't eat as a family. I don't cook family meals. Hell, I barely cook. On my days off I spend my time avoiding them, not playing with them because I am so tired and angry and resentful. What kind of mother feels that way about her kids?? I love them with every fiber of my being... and yet I want to lock myself in my bedroom and hid under the covers whenever I am home alone with them.

Work. I can't go into detail about this lest someone file a complaint about it. It's safe to say I could write pages on this topic.

Faith. This season of my life is one of isolation. I feel alone even when I am in a room with the people I love most. My prayer life feels repetitive and empty. I am constantly "doing my homework" in my devotions, not yearning for the knowledge and connection to Christ that I felt six months ago.

I have lost my joy. I have lost who I know I am and who I know I can be. I have been sucked back to this void, this darkness where I can't feel anything anymore.

I know it is temporary. I know this is just a bumpy patch. I know that I will look back on this at some indeterminate time in the future and see the lesson that I learned or some person strength that I acquired. I have been through the dark before and come out the other side but being in the midst is painful, its scary, and it is so very lonely.

Failure

{This post was written on 4/15/15 - it would appear I haven't come far in a year...}

We are not saved or justified by works but by the grace of God.

How many times I have I heard this preached in church? How many times have I read it in my devotional or in an uplifting email in my morning inbox?

Answer? More times that I can count.

Do I believe it? Yes, because it is written in the bible. Sorta, because I struggle to comprehend the kind of love and grace and acceptance that is poured out by Christ being "free". No, because I still hold myself accountable to God and to myself in a works-based mindset.

The scary part of struggling with this concept is that if, by my logic, I fail at my works - marriage, parenthood, teaching, discipleship.. by my logic (NOT God's), if I fail, I lose out on that grace, love, and forgiveness that I crave.

Right now, I feel like a failure because of my struggles with parenting and my struggle with the idols of material goods, success, and body image.

Parenting has been hard from the start - don't get me wrong. From day one I have wondered how and IF I was really prepared for the selfless work it took to be a good mom. I am selfish by nature - it is something that I battle constantly. If I need something, then I get it. If I want something, then I get it. If it stresses relationships, I still pursue it because MY needs come first. Is this right? HA! No - and please don't think for a second that I an proud of it. Take that selfish nature and put it in the context of parenting (or marriage for that matter) and one can easily see a thousand ways that selfishness can ruin the type of relationship I am trying to nurture with my children. The battles that we are going through with Addison are hard enough that, I believe, they would push any mother to her breaking point (and THAT is a whole different post). I pray every night for the strength to approach our struggles with love and understanding. Then I wake up to a destroyed house, a raided (and lied about) pantry, a child up watching movies at 3 am - and I come completely unglued. I'm not loving and understanding - I'm angry, I'm selfish. In the heat of the moment, I don't wonder what is going on in her body that has driven her to get up and ruin her favorite things, I don't wonder why she doesn't tell the truth even when being caught is inevitable, I don't wonder what it's like to lay awake all night with nothing to do, no way to fall asleep, and a body that NEEDS to move. In the heat of the moment, I see the mess, I hear the lie, I feel the frustration of being woken from MY sleep. I fail at being the loving parent that Jesus commissioned me to be. I end up being a bit of a bitch.

Thou shall have no other gods before Me.

For my ENTIRE life, I thought that was the one commandment that I had in the bag. I didn't worship gold idols or other anything crazy like that. Then my world was flipped upside down by Timothy Keller and the preaching staff at our church started talking about what idols really are. They aren't necessarily golden calves - they are all the things that we put before God in our lives.

Money.

             Success.

                             Career.

                                              Family.

                                                             Appearance.

Hearing that, realizing that, and evaluating myself on that commandment was a sobering experience. I have spent my life adoring money and the things that it could buy. Brand names, new things, shiny objects - all those things were idols in my life.

Success in my career, status, accolades - I thought that working hard and earning recognition was  the end game of my job. But when I was hit with crippling jealousy over the "teacher of the year" award in our district this year I realized that I have placed WAY too much importance on my job and my career and on being acknowledged by others instead of doing what I know is right and good and letting that be all the satisfying enough.

I thought that my dedication to my kids and the fact that I put them ahead of all else was something to be proud of. It felt natural to me that a mother should put her children above all else in her family. Then I learned that I was wrong again. Yes, my children are important and raising them and loving them are some of the most important aspects of my self - however it is Derek that I should put above the rest. I have let everything else come first and then I have given what I have left to Derek. I am living backwards.



Friday, January 2, 2015

Really??

Pink eye.

Day 2 of 2015 and I come down with pink eye of all things. I am just thankful that I have a cabinet full of doTERRA and am able to treat this kind of thing without the hassle and expense of heading to the doctor and being told it's a virus and I'll just have to wait it out.

Not with doTERRA. Last night I diluted 2 drops of melaluca and 2 drops of lavender in a small amount of fractionated coconut oil and rubbed it around my eye socket (NOT in my eye... holy geeze, that would burn...) It was noticeably better this morning and after reapplying today it feels like it's mostly gone. I expect that by tomorrow I will be back to normal.


(If you are interested in learning more about doTERRA essential oils and how you can take your health into your own hands, message me or visit my website here. I promote these because they have changed my life and the life of my family - not because I want to earn income from them.)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Organized Chaos

If there is an accurate description of my life, 'organized chaos' would be it.

2013 was the year I lost my dad. My world was dominated by grief and loss - I couldn't write about it. I couldn't talk about it. I was consumed.

2014 was a year of learning the hard way. I tried to come to terms with what life without my dad meant and I did it in all the wrong ways. I vowed not to write about my marriage on a public forum and I will keep that vow, but I will say that I made mistakes, I caused tremendous pain. When I tried to cope and grasp onto what was the shards of my life - I hung onto the one thing that I have always controlled. Food. In February I entered back into a battle with anorexia - one that drug me down to 103 pounds and five days without food. Early spring was rock bottom for me but it forced me to make some tough decisions. I was on the precipice - on one side was six months of in-patient therapy, likely out of state. On the other was intensive outpatient therapy. Even my medical team doubted my chances of success with outpatient treatment. I couldn't stand the thought of being away from my family and I knew that I needed to learn to cope with life as it was happening - not in a secluded resort, away from the reminders of the pain and the stress that look me in the face each day. So I entered outpatient therapy. I went to counseling. I saw a nutritionist. I found a psychiatrist who is nothing short of amazing. I started reading scripture daily. All of these things combined into a painfully slow healing process that has brought me to where I am today. I have exited counseling. I have exited nutritional counseling. I see my psychiatrist every other week and we are working on an ever changing combination of medications to manage my anxiety, to help me sleep, to manage my depression, and keep my eating disorder in check. My faith has been my anchor through all this. I made an effort to be more involved at church - I taught vacation bible school every other week during the summer, I volunteer with the middle school youth group every Wednesday. My small group should be starting back up now that the new year has begun. I make an effort to read scripture and keep up with my church's teaching of The Story. As 2014 came to a close, I felt like I was finally walking in the right direction after a year of being caught in a labyrinth.

2015.

A new year.

A new beginning.

I'm not a fan of New Year's Resolutions. They scream failure to me... I can make a list of all the things I'm going to change about myself and my living habits and by January 15th I'm overwhelmed and I give up. So I'm not making resolutions. That being said - I am goal oriented. I always have a to-do list. Lists help me focus. So what follows is my public declaration of my goals for 2015. I am going into this year knowing that some days (or weeks or months) some goals will be a focus and others may fall to the background. I'm okay with that. It has taken me 33 years to truly realize that I am and always will be a work in progress. This list simply highlights the areas where I hope to look back on in a year and say that I have made progress. PROGRESS not perfection. In 365 days, I want to be a better version of me than I am today.

Spiritual Growth:

  • Carve out time each day to read scripture and pray
  • Continue to find time each week to be a part of youth group
    • Make a more focused effort to connect with the kids
    • Develop lessons around scripture that challenge the students and myself

Family Focus:

  • Be a better wife to my husband and a better mom to my kids
  • Plan a 'family night' at least once a week - board games, the park, go for a walk - anything as a whole family and without social media involved
  • Develop 'homework' for both kids to complete each weeknight (15 minutes max)
  • Develop chores for both kids to complete nightly
  • Take a vacation as a whole family

Physical Health:

  • Train for and complete a 5k run
  • Train for and complete a 3 minute plank
  • Train for and develop a butt :)
  • Stretch daily

Nutrition:

  • Drink at least 32 oz. of water daily
  • Replace prescription medications with natural options wherever possible 
  • Eat at least three times per day
  • Develop a daily and weekly routine for doTERRA oils
  • Develop a weekly menu to plan shopping and ease chaos at night
  • Develop a list of healthy lunch choices and HAVE THEM AVAILABLE AT WORK

Professional Growth:

  • Organize and lead a PD book study
  • Get the 6-8 ELA team up and running on SharePoint
  • Create a vertical alignment for 6-8 ELA

Financial Health:

  • Stick to weekly food & gas budget
  • Divide spending money three ways: 33% to savings, 33% to spending, 34% toward debt consolidation loan principal
Just Because:
  • Alternate what I'm reading - YA fiction, teacher/PD book, Kindle book
  • Take one (or more!) Epson salt/doTERRA bath each week
  • Teach 4 (or more) doTERRA classes and maintain my Addicted to Oils FB page
  • Spend 15 minutes picking up every night
  • Write. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

A letter to my son on his 2nd birthday...

Cohen,

My boy. My sweet, sweet, amazing boy. How has it already been two years since I first held you in my arms? Two years since I looked into those perfect eyes? Two years since I met a living, breathing piece of my soul?

I have always heard the stories about mothers and their sons, and to be honest, I never believed them (which makes no sense, because I was a daddy's girl through and through). I always thought of boys as loud and dirty and... just so different from me. Yet the opposite is true - you are the sweetest part of my life. You are a mama's boy and I am completely yours. I love your sister with all my heart and she and I have an amazing relationship - but you and I have our own special connection that no-one can ever even begin to understand. Your eyes light up when I come into a room and your smile and giggle are contagious. You see me on the couch and drag a giant blanket and pillow over to me, climb up, and cover us both us and we just lay there together. I never knew another boy could steal my heart after your daddy did... but you, my love, have stolen it away.

I look back and think of how much you have grown and how much you have changed in this short amount of time. Then I look forward and think how amazing it will be to watch you grow up into a man. I hope I raise you well - I hope that I teach you what you need to know to be a good man in a world that doesn't necessarily promote being a truly good person.

Please be kind - to yourself and to everyone that you meet. There will be times when people don't seem to deserve your kindness, but those are the times when they need it the most. Show love and grace to those around you, forgive when someone hurts you, and ask forgiveness when you wrong someone else. Be honorable - be a man whose handshake is his bond, who is trustworthy and honest, reliable and steadfast in his beliefs. Other people will try and sell you on so many things in life - be sure you know which things are worth buying in to and when to walk away. I want you to love God and realize His unfailing love for you. He will not fail you, even when the darkness closes in, His light will guide your path. Teach your children to love Him as well. Be proud of your faith - a good man, a courageous man, is all any woman could ever hope for as a partner. Find success in your passions. You will spend a lifetime working, so find something that you love and get paid to do it. I'm certainly not a teacher because of the paycheck I bring home at the end of each month but I know that the impact I make on my students is worth more than gold. I hope you find that type of reward in whatever you choose to do. Show the world that I taught you manners - open doors for strangers, and always, ALWAYS for the women in your life. Look people in the eye when you speak to them and shake their hand. Be respectful and respectable.

Always love your sister - watch over her. You may be younger, but she is impulsive and there will be times when she will need you to be the voice of reason. Take care of her always. I never had a sibling and I've never wanted something more - the bond you two have is special. Don't let anything come between you.  You two have each other forever - stay close, support each other, love each other, keep each other safe.

You are my boy. My perfect baby boy. And whether I am telling you this when your two, twenty, or fifty - you will always be my perfect baby boy. I adore you with a love only a mother can possess and I hope you know that I would spend every second of every day curled up snuggling you if life would allow it. I know that soon enough you'll be too 'cool' for the kisses and hugs that I bombard you with every day - but that is why I do it so much now. I know that I can't keep you little, no matter how badly I want to and no matter how hard I try, you grow up a little more each day.

Happy birthday my beautiful boy... I love you with my whole heart.

~ Mama



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